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Dan Sheret, amputee cyclist circling the world
 
By Lyne Lamoureux
Date: 7/6/2007
Dan Sheret, amputee cyclist circling the world
 

With european cycling caught up in a morass of doping scandals, and seemingly unending battles across organizations, it is easy to forget why we love cycling. Meet Dan Sheret, a funny and unassuming man who reminded me of the beauty and purity of a man and his bike.

“I felt that things happen for a reason and one day I was on my little country property in Oregon, and I stepped over a fence, and shattered my leg and the next thing I became an amputee. It happened for a reason and that I had an obligation to do what I could do to help other people.”

Amputee endurance cyclist Dan Sheret is set to circumnavigate the globe, by bicycle, to help raise awareness and funds for landmine victims around the world. He started his fourteen-month journey, named AbilityTrek, on June 1st in Washington, DC.

“My goal,” said Sheret, “is to bring hope and awareness to amputees in need throughout the developing world and also raise funding to assist the great work that is being done to aid landmine victims and other amputees."


Dan Sheret on a training ride in Washington, DC
Photo courtesy AbilityTrek.org

He was escorted from the nation's capital by the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team, a primary sponsor of the trek, and embarked on his 66-day crossing of the United States which is scheduled to end in San Francisco, CA on July 25, 2007. In the early fall, Sheret will travel to Southeast Asia and continue his world odyssey through China, Russia, Europe and the Middle East. His trek will cover 16,000 miles and four continents.

I caught up with the 45-year old Sheret the day after he had just climbed Lookout Mountain in Georgia and was resting at a campground in Tennessee. During his final climb, he was followed and paced by a cougar. “I had just walked 2 miles up this hill, no this mountain and I was not going to get on that bike and run down that hill, it was mine.” Sheret gathered a few stones and threw them in the direction of the cougar (and did not hit him). “I was bound and determined yesterday, after a very long day that I was going to stay on top of the food chain.”

Why cycling?

Sheret was not a cyclist nor an athlete before his accident. “I was a little fat 40-year old furniture maker. Seriously.”

After his amputation, he walked with a cane and then couldn't walk for 2 years, and his weight shot up to 215 pounds. But once he received his prosthesis, he worked with mentor and now good friend Steve, in Oregon, to get back into shape.

Sheret started cycling and was doing about 20 miles a day, and during a conversation at an amputee convention in Anaheim, he commented to somebody “you know I'm cycling 20 miles a day I feel so good about what I'm doing that I could cycle across America.” The response was the expected “no, you can't do that” and “I went really? well let's see about that.”

So a couple of months following that seemingly benign exchange, Sheret took a professional tour, America by bike and cycled across America. The second time across the country in 2003, he decided to do the journey with no support - no SAG wagon, no one to carry his luggage - as he wanted to incorporate his childhood love of camping and of the outdoors with his adult experiences.

From there, he continued to cycle, and has led multiple amputee teams in America, and Europe to raise awareness and hope. For Sheret, cycling is a frame of mobility and as a low impact sport is perfect for people with disabilities.

AbilityTrek


AbilityTrek email flyer
“Because the story wasn't finished yet.” replied Sheret when asked why do it again after his first trip across America.

“There were still things to see and do, I reached a lot of the people in the US but I started to understand that there were a lot of amputees around the world that were in even worse straights.”

One day last winter, while sitting around the kitchen table, his partner Julia asked what his plans were for the summer, and “Well I said one thing that I've always wanted to do is to go around the world and try to find some charities that were worthwhile that I can do what I do and hopefully help support. “

Sheret is raising awareness and funding for two charities. Clear Path International which serves landmine and bomb accident survivors, their families and their communities. This assistance takes the form of direct medical and social services to survivors and their families as well as equipment support to hospitals. The current projects are in Vietnam, Cambodia and on the Thai-Burma border.

The Rotary Club of Montgomery Village (MD), in association with many partnering Rotary Clubs and organizations, including Physicians for Peace and Hanger Orthopedic Group, is working with the Iraqi Ministry of Health to bring aid to the amputees of war-torn Basra, Iraq. The numbers of amputees in Iraq rise as innocent civilians fall victim to landmines, bombs, and insurgent attacks. Healthcare in Iraq is barely accessible and of poor quality; funding for medical equipment, training of physicians and prosthetists, and sourcing of used prosthesis, are desperately needed to improve the quality of life for these amputees. Security concerns dictate that this work was undertaken in Amman, Jordan. The long term objective of this all volunteer mission, is to help reestablish Prosthetic Centers in Basra and throughout Iraq.

“It's been about realizing some of the great organizations that are working tirelessly and often outside of the public eye both here in the US and worldwide, they are helping people and I thought that this trip and what I could do, could raise awareness and hope with funding for them.”

In a self-imposed rule, Sheret decided that none of the funds raised were to be used for his living expenses as he wanted to see that the money went to the people that were in need.

And he did manage to feed and clothe himself. “You have to have a little bit of faith that the universe is going to provide and so far it has.” He started this trek with about 2 thousand dollars to get across America, and everyday someone is willing to help out in one way or another and he has managed to round up a group of supportive sponsors to assist with his worthwhile endeavor.

How did a pro team get involved?


Dan Sheret and Toyota-United team members, Ivan Stevic and Henk Vogels
Photo courtesy AbilityTrek.org

Sheret wrote to 14 professional cycling teams that raced in the US asking for a signed team jersey that could be auctioned off to raise funds. He got turned down by 13 of the teams, but the fourteenth reply was different. Sean Tucker, owner of Toyota-United Pro Cycling team replied with a 'I think we can do a little better than that' and provided Sheret with gear and clothing and a “tremendous amount of support”.

“Everybody at Toyota-United is just awesome.” Continuing with chuckle, Sheret added “I think they (riders) are a little afraid that Mr Tucker is going to add a trailer behind their bike for training.”

Kindness of strangers and managing loneliness and pain

Loneliness will be present while riding mostly alone for 12 to 14 months. “You're going to have dark nights of the soul, and the thing is it's usually short-lived and by morning or the next day, something happens and you just realize that what you are doing is important and you just muster on.”

According to Sheret, there are two things to know about being an amputee and pain. One is that there will always be one form or another of discomfort and pain, it's just a matter of severity. And the other is the fact that sleepless night happen because the body needs to make adjustments to what has happen during the day as far as volume flow and things with the residual limb. “And so it's the nature of the beast and it's kind of what you sign up for and it's what you have to do. It's not a bad thing, it's no different than anybody else having a medical issue.”

Sheret has had issues with motorists with tobacco cups and other things thrown at him in Georgia, but “every time it starts getting tough, and you get frustrated, there is this little act of kindness that comes out and it makes all worthwhile.”

For example, a business woman stopped in front of him on the road and offered some water. Or a man stopped by while Sheret was drinking a coffee at a coffee shop, and gave him a gift certificate while saying “ I saw you 30 miles back and you're an inspiration.”

Want to help? Want to follow Dan Sheret on his trek?

Make a donation via is website AbilityTrek.org

Look at the route, come out and bring water, food and a little conversation to Dan on the road. Send an email “because it does get lonely on the road and it's good to communicate with people.”


Photo c. AbilityTrek.org
One of the biggest supporter is his partner Julia, who manages the project and has set up a companion children's site http://abilitytrektracker.blogspot.com/ that is being translated in multiple languages and is being read in 21 countries. It is a wonderful educational tool as it provides not only updates on Sheret's trek but math, history and culture.

“ It's just a delight, and once I'm out of the USA, I can't wait to see her creativity and what she (Julia) does there.”

Dan Sheret and AbilityTrek are sponsored by: Arkel Pannier Manufacturers, Polar Bottles, Sharklids Eye Gear, Toyota United Pro Cycling Team, Mountain House Foods, O and P Edge and Adventure Cycle Association


Dan Sheret and his trusted stead Tuck
Photo courtesy AbilityTrek.org


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